Abstract: Staples thesis describes the development paths of remote economies that have been reliant on the export of relatively unprocessed natural resources – the staples. These economies tend to be overdependent on external markets, are susceptible to boom and bust cycles, and can ultimately become ‘trapped’ in their development paths because they fail to convert initial staples export-driven economic growth into more sustainable and diversified local industries. Tourism has often been described as a potential way to escape such a ‘staples trap’ but, so far, has never been examined from a staples thesis perspective. This paper analyses the case of Central Australia and shows that tourism in remote areas can exhibit similar characteristics as traditional staples industries. If remote regions are to harness tourism for economic and social development, there needs to be a better understanding of the conditions under which remote economies (including tourism) can become locked into a continuous export-dependency development path. The paper concludes that using staples thesis as a conceptual framework offers considerable potential to enhance the understanding of tourism development in remote regions. Finally, it proposes a research agenda for tourism in remote areas to facilitate more targeted future research.